Don’t you love “aha” moments? I do.
I had a few when I was preparing for the Sunday school class I taught this morning. I have THE best ministry position in the world. I get to teach a group of fun, energetic and hilarious junior high girls each Sunday. A BIG group. Like between 40 and 50 of them. And I love it!
This morning I started a new series on the Lord’s Prayer in the book of Matthew. I’m doing an expository series, going verse by verse. And today, since we covered only 7 words, this is going to be a long series.
But I’m totally loving what I’m finding. When I was a kid growing up in St. Charles parish on Staten Island, I knew the Lord’s Prayer. I learned it by rote, and can say it without even thinking, probably even in my sleep.
But when I started unpacking each word, it started to come to life. Maybe it can for you too.
The very first few syllables are especially signficant to me. “Our Father.” The Greek word for “father” is “pater”, from which we get our word “paternal”. In the Greek, it has several connotations including a “nourisher, a protector” as well as a near relative. But the context of the word in Matt 6:9 where Jesus is teaching his disciples to pray, is astonishing to me.
The Lord’s prayer is delivered by Jesus during his “Sermon on the Mount” discourse, recorded in Matthew chapters 5,6 & 7. The prayer itself is only 5 verses in Matthew 6. Up to this point, Jesus used the phrase “your father” 6 times, referring to God in heaven. That alone had to blow the disciples minds. Nowhere in the Old Testament is God referred to as father. This was the first they had considered the intimacy of a family relationship with God.
But then Jesus goes a step further. When he starts the prayer by saying “This is how you should pray,” he uses the phrase “Our Father”. At first, maybe that didn’t catch their attention, because he’s talking to them as a group.
But then, Jesus begins to use the phrase “my father.” He uses is 14 times in Matthew, so it’s clear that he’s clear on his relationship with God. I wonder when the aha moments for the disciples starting happening… I can just imagine them thinking, “Wait a minute! Jesus, we have a father in heaven. You have a father in heaven. YOUR father is OUR father? Whoa, Jesus…that’s cool. We get to call YOUR father OUR father!!!” It’s the only time he directly identified himself with the disciples AND God the Father by using the personal inclusive pronoun “our.” With the word “our”, he ushered in an entirely new way of looking at relationship with God, inviting the disciples (and us) to be a part of that same relationship. It’s a level of intimacy that is deep and personal, far beyond what the people of that time could even imagine. Wow. Aha moments!
In John 1:12, it says “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God “. When Jesus taught the disciples to pray and began with the two simple words “Our Father”, he was teaching them more than a prayer. He was redefining their family status. They had never heard of this whole “adopted into the family” theology (which was later described by Paul in his letters, probably 60 years after the sermon on the mount.) But they didn’t need theology. They had a personal invitation by Jesus himself to call God their Father. The same Father that Jesus called “my father.”
Aha moment for me. For you too???
So, who’s your daddy? Have you received him, do you believe in his name? Have you been given the right to become a child of God? Because only a child of God can call God “Our Father.” Believe, receive, and know your daddy.